10x Thinking

10x Thinking

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To me, one company stands out as most impressive in the world right now for its way of thinking. Not for its achievements today (although hugely influential), but for the impact its way of thinking will have on our collective futures.That company is Google.

Their way of thinking is what they like to call ‘10x thinking’. In simple terms, they think about how they can improve what they do by a factor of 10 times, rather than by 10% like others. It challenges them to think about everything they do in terms of revolutionary change rather than evolutionary change.

Take something like email. If you were to think in the traditional way about improving it, you would make it faster and do nice things to improve its performance. But if you aimed for a 10x improvement to email, it would force you to look at the problem in a radically different way.

Remember the fax machine – or telex? Or even hand written letters? These were once mainstream methods of communication. We may not have seen email coming in the last 20 years, but it is certainly here now. And I can guarantee that email as we know it will disappear in the not too distant future.

That might be hard to imagine, but it will happen. The signs are already there. For instance, most teenagers don’t use email: they use social media and instant messaging as their primary forms of communication. And in 10 years’ time, they will be running the Googles of tomorrow.

Furthermore, voice recognition technology is almost at the point where a multi-modal form of communication is possible. Voice, video and text, all interchangeable in real time and out of real time. Oh, wait a minute – isn’t that where Google Hangouts is heading?

And let’s not even get into directly connecting our brains to the internet, which some say is only 15 years away. Communication by thought could pose a few fundamental challenges to email companies today. Change is really happening that fast.

The real problem is how the human mind works. Evolution designed the brain to think about change linearly – which helped us to adapt, and win the Darwinian race. Linear thinking was really useful when the edge of our universe was our local area. But the world is now global and hyper-connected – and our brains were not designed for the impact of that .

In simpler terms, our brain is designed just to recognise nice easy sequences of progression like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. But technology just doesn’t improve that way. It improves exponentially – changing at an accelerating rate of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512. Those two paths are massively divergent, making it extremely difficult for us to predict and perform in that way – unless we enforce a different way of thinking.

Google itself is only 15 years old. Facebook, 9. The first iPhone launched just 6 years ago, introducing the smartphone into our daily lives. Twitter is 6. The iPad and the tablet computing revolution is – wait for it – only 3.5 years old! These are all products and companies that are radically changing the way we live. And it is getting faster and faster. We just cannot predict future trends when change is coming so fast.

The real risk to an exponentially changing world is evolution, rather than revolution. That’s why it’s no longer good enough to simply improve what’s there. 10x thinking is not easy, but incremental change no longer fits this rapidly changing world. You have to rip things up and think in a different way – using another approach. Google demonstrates how that approach can work in reality, and this is what separates them from the likes of Facebook, Microsoft and yes, even Apple. It is why Google stands to navigate through this change like no other company has ever done before.

10x thinking is in Google’s DNA. You can guarantee that they are working on getting rid of their email system, Gmail, to surpass it with something 10x better. They have gone on record that Google’s search results (i.e. their main business!) is a relatively poor product compared to what we really want. Larry Page reiterated the basic mission statement of Google, as represented by Google Now: “Our goal is to get you the right information at just the right time … without you having to ask first.” And guess what? They are working on it.

It is my view that Google is well placed to become the most valuable, high impact company of all time. Every company, community and person can learn from them how to operate effectively in these accelerating times.

Rather than seeing it as something to improve incrementally, I have certainly been on the path to 10xing my life. To achieve this, I have had to pretty much rip up most of it and start again. Whilst that might seem crazy, I am simply preparing myself for an incredible future. I just couldn’t do it by following my old, incremental path.

So I challenge you to ask yourself: how can I improve my company, my role, my community, my life – by 10x?

It is possible. Just be aware that your brain is not wired to help you think that way. It takes a little effort to build new neural pathways in your brain! So think differently. Tenfold.

If you are interested in learning about the future impact of technology, then consider going to the Singularity University Summit Europe on the 15th/16th of November. They are the world leaders in understanding the impact of exponentially changing technology. They will blow your mind, as they continue to blow mine!

(Disclosure: I own Google stock)

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  1. james giampietro says:

    Hi Marc,
    Great blog! Question – how do you reconcile 10x Thinking with the Aggregation of Marginal Gains? Aren’t they fundamentally different approaches to life or different expressions of the same idea? That’s a big question for me right now!
    Thanks,
    James

  2. Excellent question James. I feel both approaches are valid and can work side by side. 10x thinking a way of resetting how far you can get. Marginal gains is process for getting there. It does mean that you may have to destroy the original approach to do it though. If you look at Team Sky (the originators of the term marginal gains) they ignored many of the common conventions of professional cycling from the beginning and started again. They then trusted the process to take them to the very top of the sport in a very short space of time. Does that help with your question?

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  1. […] behind the making of Google Maps from Ed Parsons, with particular attention given to their “10x thinking”, which put simply, means dream really big and start the journey to get there. Urthecast, an […]

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